Mexico Inaugurates ‘Strategic Center’ to Fight Domestic Drug Trade

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Mexico’s Attorney General announced the creation of a new strategic center in Puebla state as part of a joint federal-state effort to fight domestic drug trafficking.

At the announcement of the opening of the new “Center for Strategic Operations” on July 23, Attorney General Marisela Morales called “micro-trafficking,” or domestic drug sales, one of the country’s gravest problems, due to the violence caused as gangs compete for control of the local market, reported El Universal.

Speaking at a press conference alongside Governor Rafael Moreno Valle and other Puebla state officials, Morales highlighted the danger of drug addiction to working youth, students, and minors and warned that domestic drug sales and consumption are eroding Mexico’s social fabric.

The purpose of the new center in Puebla is to improve institutional cooperation among state and federal authorities. Specifically, the center will investigate where and what kinds of drugs are sold, the networks of distribution, and other “crimes against health.” Morales signalled the Attorney General Office’s intention to create similar strategic centers throughout the country.

InSight Crime Analysis

While the number of drug users in Mexico remains relatively small compared to those of developed countries, especially the United States, domestic drug consumption has increased over the past decade. Mexico’s most recent National Survey of Addiction, released in 2008, showed that consumption of cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine has risen. In February, Mexican Health Secretary Jose Córdoba announced that Mexico has an estimated 450,000 hard drug users.

Micro-trafficking also presents a growing challenge for the Mexican government due to its role in the changing nature of Mexico’s criminal landscape. As Mexico’s large drug trafficking organizations become increasingly fragmented, smaller gangs fight to control “the corner” (small territories) rather than “the plaza” (larger territories). Some analysts predict that as domestic drug consumption continues to rise, so will violence connected to micro-trafficking.

So far Mexico’s efforts to combat micro-trafficking show few signs of success. In August 2009, Mexico passed a law that legalized personal possession of small amounts of cocaine and marijuana, intended to target street-level dealers and cut down on the incarceration of drug users. However, as of January 2011, the number of people detained for drugs possession in Mexico’s Federal District had increased 450 percent since 2002.

According to a report by the Washington Office on Latin America, the law has done little to help curb prison overpopulation and eliminate major dealers: half of prisoners incarcerated for selling drugs in Mexico’s Federal District were arrested for possessing less than $100 worth of narcotics.

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